CHICAGO (CN) — Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart announced Tuesday evening that his office is charging the suspected gunman in a Chicago-area Fourth of July parade shooting with seven counts of first-degree murder. And that’s just to start.
"These are just the first of many charges that will be filed against Mr. Crimo," Rinehart said at a Tuesday evening press conference. "I want to emphasize that. There will be more charges."
The shooting occurred around 10 a.m. Monday morning in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, during the town's Fourth of July parade. Seven people were killed, with more than 30 wounded. Police recovered a rifle, the suspected shooting weapon, from the roof of a building near the parade route. Police took Robert Crimo III, a white 21-year-old local resident, into custody on Monday night in the nearby town of Lake Forest, Illinois, after a brief chase.
Nancy Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, said Tuesday morning she believes Crimo acquired his weapon legally. A few hours later, local police confirmed the "high-powered rifle" believed to have been used in the attack was legal.
"The rifle was purchased in Illinois, and the information we have thus far is that it appears to have been purchased legally by Crimo," Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Christopher Covelli said in a Tuesday morning press conference.
Covelli also said law enforcement believed the shooting had been planned well in advance.
"We do believe Crimo preplanned for several weeks. He brought a high-powered rifle to this parade, he accessed the roof of a business via a fire escape ladder, and began opening fire on the innocent Independence Day celebrationgoers," he said.
Covelli further explained that police think Crimo acted alone, abandoning the rifle after firing more than 70 rounds into the crowd and escaping the scene amid the chaos while disguised in women’s clothes. He was apprehended several hours later after the Lake County Sheriff's Office put out an alert on his vehicle, reportedly registered to his mother. A witness spotted the vehicle and called 911, leading to his arrest in Lake Forest following a traffic stop and brief chase conducted by police from the nearby town of North Chicago. Inside the vehicle, Covelli said police recovered a second rifle.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said Crimo was in her Cub Scout pack as a child, describing him as once having been "a sweet little boy" in an interview with CBS.
"I'm not sure what happened to him to compel him to commit this kind of evil in his hometown," Rotering said.
Numerous public officials offered their condolences in the wake of the shooting, including Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth as well as Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and President Joe Biden, all Democrats. On Tuesday morning, Biden ordered flags be flown at half mast in mourning of the tragedy.
During her interview with CBS, Rotering voiced concern over the relative ease with which Crimo was able to obtain a rifle.
"We need to have a very real national conversation about why we're OK with allowing weapons of war on our streets, and why we're OK with weekly having mass shootings," Rotering said. Pritzker likewise said Monday afternoon that the "madness" of mass shootings "must stop."
Covelli said in another Tuesday afternoon press conference that Crimo had legally purchased five guns total between 2020 and 2021, including the two rifles, an unstated number of handguns and possibly a shotgun. Prior to Monday, he said the Highland Park Police Department had responded to incidents involving Crimo on two occasions.
The first occurred in April 2019, when police responded to a delayed report that Crimo had attempted suicide a week earlier. No law enforcement action was taken at the time, and Covelli said Crimo was in the care of mental health care professionals.